A Seat in the Bleachers: Alpha is the obvious pick, even to me
SARATOGA SPRINGS I am recoiling in terror.
Make that “re-Coiling,” if you will.
My Travers pick last year was Coil, and it was nice to see him return to the races in California last month with a victory after over nine months off. That’s nice.
I don’t get credit for an allowance at Del Mar, though, I picked him to win the Travers last year, and he came in last place out of 10. He was suitably motivated just long enough to get a length ahead of one horse, Raison d’Etat, on the turn, but otherwise had a great view of nine tails and that to which they’re attached almost all of the way before finishing over 41 lengths behind Stay Thirsty.
This year, I am seriously tempted to go with one of the California horses again, Nonios, buuuut . . .
We’re not going to do that.
It’s easy to look down our noses at this year’s 11-horse Travers field, since there are only four graded-stakes winners among them, and one of them, Liaison, hasn’t won one of anything since he was 2.
He has been showing up in plenty of big races this year, including the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Jim Dandy, but the best he has to show for all of this is a second to Nonios in the Affirmed.
No doubt there is no shortage of owners and trainers who would take umbrage at the suggestion that this is a weak field, and if I had spent a pile of money on a horse who was fortunate enough to make the $1 million Travers field, I’d feel the same way.
Either way, it’s still the usual mind-bending puzzle we’ve come to expect.
I’m wavering between believing that this Travers is simply what it looks like, a reprise of the Jim Dandy, which would not be unusual at all, or something profoundly more complicated and confounding.
A psychic once made this observation of me: “You have a tendency to do things the hard way. You’ll walk around something that you’re looking for many times before finding it.”
I think that tells you a lot more about psychics than it does about me.
EXCEPT THAT SHE WAS RIGHT!!
She nailed it. I do that all the time! I couldn’t find my iPod the other day. Unbelievable, how psychics can just read a person.
And I’m doing the same thing again with the Travers.
First, a somewhat tangential piece of business to get out of the way:
The New York State Racing and Wagering Board blood-tested the Travers starters for illegal drugs and overages on Wednesday, and the initial tests all came back negative.
The Travers warrants special attention because it’s a million-dollar race, it’s on NBC . . . I guess?
I hope they don’t expect us to believe that pinpointing one race out of thousands with extremely heightened scrutiny and security somehow represents vigilance over the whole sport.
Anyway, the new protocols were met with shrugs from the horsemen involved, so back to our regularly scheduled race programming.
I walked around the Travers a gajillion times trying to find what was right there, that Alpha is simply the best horse in this race after showing himself to be the best horse in the Jim Dandy.
I appreciate trainer Kenny McPeek’s disgust with the fact that “there were seven horses in the race that probably should’ve been closer” to Alpha early in the Jim Dandy.
But Alpha doesn’t need the lead and, in fact, is probably better off sitting one or two spots behind, which he will surely be doing today.
I tried to make a case for Jim Dandy runner-up Neck ‘n Neck, but the fact remains that he’s never won anywhere but Churchill Downs, whereas Alpha has never stunk out the joint anywhere but Churchill Downs.
Nonios is very intriguing off his second to Paynter in the Haskell, his first career start on conventional dirt, and he picks up John Velazquez.
He has a nice overall record, but he’s picking up seven pounds more than he’s ever carried, in a race that covers a mile and a quarter.
So I walked around and around, perhaps even to the point of dizziness, when Alpha was just sitting there the whole time.
My Travers superfecta is Alpha, Neck ‘n Neck, Street Life, Nonios.
If I’m wrong, I shudder to think what sort of crushing, obliterating impact that would have on my faith in psychics.